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June 15

4 Tips For An Enjoyable Vacation

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We are heading to the mountains next week with another family and I have definitely been looking forward to it. But as we get closer, I can feel some of my anxiety around "what if I can't relax enough?" starting to creep in. Vacations always seem like they should be fun, but without proper planning, vacations can quickly become draining instead of rejuvenating. Add in kids, and a vacation might feel more stressful than just staying at home. Here are some tips to make your next vacation go more smoothly.

1. Plan ahead but stay flexible

Planning will help the trip go smoothly but also be open to pivoting. I keep a packing list saved on my phone so I can reuse it for every trip. It has helped make the planning a lot less stressful and I feel less frantic knowing that I have a solid list that has been used many times before. Sit down as early as possible after you have decided on your trip to list out all of the other to-dos such as renting a car. 

If something out of your control causes changes to your vacation, take some time to feel upset, and then think of how you might be able to fix things. It can be so easy to feel hopeless if the weather is bad at the beach or flights get delayed, but we don't have control over those things. I find it helpful to feel frustrated for a bit, then take a deep breath, say to myself "I can't change it" and then switch to problem-solving mode. Sometimes problem-solving means canceling the trip and rescheduling for another time or sometimes it might mean buying everyone nice rain gear so you can play with your kids on a rainy beach. 

2. Reflect

Based on previous trips, decide what you might want more of on your trip and what you might want to avoid. It can be so easy to get caught up in what you feel like you should do on vacation but take some time to reflect and think about what you really enjoy doing. If scheduling a million activities makes you happy, do it. If lounging around all day is more your speed, do it. You don't have to visit every historic monument or site just because everyone tells you to. Reflect on what has previously been enjoyable about vacations and what has drained you and plan accordingly. 

3. Schedule Nonnegotiables

If you know visiting a certain space is important, schedule that first. If you know that taking a nap every day at 3 pm is important, schedule it first. Vacation schedules can quickly get overambitious, so after your reflection, it is important to decide what's the one thing that feels like you want to make sure you can come back home and say you did. I have been on many vacations where I assume we'll get around to the one thing I want to do, but somehow time always gets away from us and it doesn't happen. I've gotten much more proactive and vocal about scheduling my nonnegotiables and it has made vacations much more enjoyable. 

4. Practice Mindfulness 

If things feel like they aren't going well, take a moment to be present in the moment. I am so good at feeling anxious about my vacation ending when it's just started. That is a definite way to ruin a vacation. I have found it helpful to practice mindfulness by focusing my attention on whatever is right in front of me and just observing while taking a few deep breaths. Then I will say to myself "I'm so excited to be right here, right now." Anxiety and excitement physically feel similar and usually, my brain will start to see the anxiety as excitement. This helps me get back into the moment and ready to enjoy the vacation. 

Anne Rice, LPC, LMHC, CPCS

About the author

Anne is a licensed therapist in both New York and Georgia. She is the owner of Firefly Wellness Counseling located in the Atlanta area. Her team works with all members of the family struggling with anxiety, depression, and big life changes. Anne loves helping adults and teens navigate life's difficulties by creating a comfortable and safe place to share anything and everything that is on their minds. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Princeton University and her graduate degree in Counseling Psychology from Boston College.


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